Scott Belsky - Proactive vs Reactive

Through our constant connectivity to each other, we have become increasingly reactive to what comes to us rather than being proactive about what matters most to us. ~ Scott Belsky

This quote encapsulates the biggest takeaway from my recent digital sabbatical.

I’m going to post a more in-depth look at how taking time out from the internet caused me to overhaul my workday later this week, but today I wanted to focus on the core shift underlying the changes I’ve made in my life – and work – since that short break.

Connectivity is crucial to my business – to any online or other business, really. Being not only visible, but useful, engaging, or entertaining on social media + email on a daily basis is a never-ending part of my ‘job’ – and the job of anyone who wants to grow a solid business in the 21st Century.

Social media is not only vital – it’s fun, too! That makes it a potentially dangerous time-suck – one which we’ve all fallen victim to many, many, MANY times.

Email, also – the all-pervasive and slightly amorphous feeling of stress we feel if we’re not checking it constantly – can eat up productive time so very easily.

The core of all of this? Reactive work.

By constantly ‘checking in’ on social media, email, and other interactive online spaces (like checking our blog comments or stats, for example) we are caught in a loop of reactive work. We’re looking for something outside of us to give us something to respond to, rather than sitting back, turning inward, and focussing on what WE can create and give out to the world.

This is the tension between reactive and proactive work.

Many of us do FAR too much reactive work – and proactive work falls by the wayside as a victim to our reactive focus.

I’ll give you a few examples from my workday to illustrate these two types of work:


  • ‘Checking’ email. Especially when I’m just checking it to see if there’s anything new… while there are still a slew of emails in my inbox that I’ll deal with ‘later’…
  • Checking in to social media – again, to see if there’s anything new for me to respond to
  • Checking blog comments, stats, email newsletter opens + stats… etc etc
  • Filling orders. VITAL core of my business.


  • Logging onto email to SEND emails I’ve drafted beforehand that will move my business forward in some way
  • Logging onto social media to deliberately share or schedule useful updates
  • Writing content for e-courses, ebooks, blog posts
  • Designing new jewellery + photographing new designs + uploading new designs
  • Pitching bloggers or press

These are just a few examples from my own workday – I’m sure you can see some of your own habits here, too.

Now, as you can see, some reactive tasks are REALLY IMPORTANT. They are not ‘bad’ – but they can expand to fill the time we give them. Proactive work only happens when we deliberately carve out the time and space for it – and just a quick peruse of the list above will show you how vital making time for proactive work is if you want to move your business forward.

And it’s not all about work, either. Other aspects of our life (like real-world time with family and friends, non-digital hobbies, exercise) can suffer when we’re caught in a reactive loop – obsessively checking our phones every few minutes to see if something new and exciting has happened – rather than giving our whole focus to the present moment and what we’re doing + who we’re with.

The realisation that I wasn’t carving out enough of this proactive work (and life) time on a consistent, daily basis was a paradigm shift for me, personally. As I said above, I’m going to go into much more detail on how I have changed my daily routine as a result of this realisation later this week, so if you’re curious, keep an eye out for that.

Oh, and in case you want to read more about this sort of stuff, the quote above is from the quite excellent 99U book I read during my sabbatical, which was instrumental in helping me re-think my daily routine. It’s called Manage Your Day-to-Day.

Now, I’d love to ask you – do you see this tendency in your own life and work?

Do you have time set aside for proactive work every single day? Or is it something you need to work on including?

Pin It on Pinterest